might be generally perceived as a gloomy reality show from the days of the horse and carriage, where the dark vodka flows amongst depressed, over-educated members of the Russian upper crust while they deal with a mundane daily existence in the countryside, so close yet so far away from the cultural mecca of Moscow.
But after watching a lively adaptation of Chekhov's play — condensed into two hours from its original four — at the in Mattituck, you won't know whether you've seen a comedy or tragedy. But that's exactly the point of Chekhov's naturalistic theatrical prose: Life is not meant to be either or. Life, in reality, is funny, tragic, intense, boring, and beyond. This ambitious local production will remind you that you're not alone in this everlasting human game.
"Three Sisters" was written in 1900 by Russian author and playwright Anton Chekhov. The play is said to be based on the lives of 19th Century literary sisters the Brontes and was first produced in 1901.
Adapted and directed by Peg Murray; produced by Deanna Andes; music arranged by Virginia Jones
Irina Prozorov — Deborah Marshall
Olga Prozorov — Amie Sponza
Masha Prozorov — Catherine Maloney
Anfisa, the nanny — Suzette Reiss
Andrei, the brother — David Burt
Natasha, Andrei's wife — Lisa Dabrowski
Feodor, Masha's husband — Joe Martinsen
Lt. Nicholai Tusenbach — Jim Navarre
Capt. Vassily Solyony — Alan Stewart
Army Medic Ivan Romanoff — David Markel
Col. Alexander Ilyitch Vershinin — Tom LeMothe
The play takes place at the turn of the century outside of Moscow at the house of the three sister's family estate. It follows the life of the Prozorov family — three sisters, Olga, Masha and Irina, and their brother, Andrei. The intelligent and driven three sisters and their brother are not happy with their slow-moving provincial lots and long for a life in Moscow, where they grew up. But they begin to realize that they will never return to the big city and find ways to deal with life and love entrenched in a countryside full of soldiers, sadness and life's big questions always up for debate.
During her first production at the North Fork Community Theater, Tony Award winning actress and seasoned writer and director Peg Murray captures the play's eternal themes for a modern audience without diverting from the classic feel of Chekhov's original 1901 production.
The set of the estate's parlor is engagingly simple with a red settee, yellow chairs, a fireplace complete with candleabra, and a small bar fully stocked with vodka (and used often).
The costumes throughout the play enhance the characters. Deborah Marshall is consistently dressed in white as young Irina, reflecting her constant innocence and idealism as an eager early 20th Century working girl. The gold, black and maroon clothing scheme for Catherine Maloney enhances her on-target performance of the headstrong and lovesick Masha. Respectable greens and blues drape Amie Sponza as the responsible and motherly Olga.
The High Points:
The performances from all the actors in "Three Sisters" are engaging and enjoyable throughout the play. The female leads are convincing as sisters and are entertaining as distinct individual characters. Boredom and frustration hits home when the ambitious Irina says, "Anything is better than waking up at noon and having coffee in bed."
David Burt is convincingly lost as the sister's milquetoast brother Andrei, a wannabe professor who marries and is later unhappily stuck with Natasha, a local girl who is masterfully played by Lisa Dabrowski. Her character transforms from an insecure and manic wallflower into a cold, devious and double-talking power monger by the beginning of the second half.
David Markel plays army medic Ivan Romanoff, an eccentric doctor who becomes sick of being blamed for the death of patients and becomes a depressed drunkard. Markel treats the dark situation with an effective light humor throughout the play.
But the most appealing performances come from Catherine Maloney as the attractive but unhappily married Masha and Tom LeMothe as the married but good-looking and deep-thinking Col. Alexander Ilyitch Vershinin, who end up having an affair with each other. You can see these two falling hopelessly in love from the first kiss on the hand during an opening scene.
When the soldiers leave the town, the lovers must part and Masha must once again face the husband she is emotionally tied to but is no longer passionate about. Joe Martinsen plays Masha's over-caring husband Feodor with a charming subtly — and you can understand why Masha can clear her head to return to the longer-term relationship with him.
Everyone's character, with the exception of Alan Stewart's Capt. Vassily Solyony, is idealistic throughout the play — always reminding themselves and their companions that they should be happy and that life is meant to be enjoyed. And by the end, the sisters remain hopeful and supportive of each other in the face of all that life throws at them.
During a Q&A session with director Peg Murray and the cast members, local theater fan and Greenport resident Philip Price congratulated the ensemble for portraying each character in a manner we can all still relate to.
"This was an ambitious venture," he said. "And I think they've proved that life is just as tough as it was now as it was at the beginning of the 20th Century."
Actor Alan Stewart agreed that Chekhov's observations are timeless.
"'Three Sisters' is a play you can't help but identify with," he said in an interview after the performance. "When Peg was thinking about showcasing women in a classical performance, 'Three Sisters' absolutely was the first one to come to mind."
Catch the following performances of "Three Sisters" at North Fork Community Theatre in Mattituck: Nov. 13 and 14 and Nov. 19-21. Friday and Saturday evening shows begin at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees are at 2:30 p.m. Go to www.nfct.com for tickets.